FINDING UNITY IN SPITE OF PLURALITY

In the inter-spirituality approach of Brother Teasdale

authentic enlightenment/awakening can be had

by deeply following any of the branches of the religious tree

of humanity’s search for the Godhead.

 

However, New Age/Alternative Spirituality’s rejection of dogma/

Joseph Campbell’s injunction to follow your bliss/

Krishnamurti’s radical openness to any spirituality

can lead naïve seekers into dabbling in the occult

and thus vulnerable to dark forces/false prophets.

A sense of the numinous can lead to deep calm/awe

or wild bacchanalian debauchery/dread.

 

Psychoanalysis/depth psychology was rejected

by many religious people because it disturbed

their ‘undisturbed conscience’ by showing them

the depths of their cruelty and hatred

that only the Cross of Christ can handle –

simplistic Christians were ironically afraid

of the depths of their own tradition

of deep Christianity.

 

Thomas Merton revealed western religion had lost

the deep wisdom/unitive tradition Jesus taught –

even in monasticism there are monks and nuns

dualistic in their thoughts/practices.

 

God created the universe with an end in mind:

a Christified cosmos.

Thus, despite the immensity of the universe

which could induce ‘cosmic terror’ in the naïve

the universe is a unity not an unrelated plurality

it is meaningful and purposeful

because it is grounded in the Cosmic Christ.

FRESH AND GREAT REVELATIONS

 

 St. Gregory of Nyassa wrote that the contemplative life

cannot be lived in secular society

but St. Basil claimed it is possible while you work

to pray with your mouth/heart/mind.

 

At the monastery, Thomas Merton learned:

– how to pray while working as a laborer

– how to be a member of the human race

– that every other human being is no more crazy

and ridiculous than he claimed to be – than we all are.

 

Merton also learned and contemplated:

– fear is the awareness of one’s own finitude

– the possibility of one’s own nonbeing

– that anxiety is natural for mere mortals.

All these were great revelations to him.

 

Today extreme theological traditionalists

try to overcome anxiety by ignoring the past two centuries

while extreme theological progressives

subordinate Christianity to worldly philosophies.

The former flounder like fish-out-of-water in contemporary culture.

The latter flounder like fish-out-of-water in the church

and, despite their protests, are not Christian –

you have to draw the orthodox line somewhere.

 

The years when the religious right ordains

fundamentalist presidents always result in religious disaster –

alienating all young Americans

who hold completely different values

about women/homosexuality/poverty/climate change.

 

According to the great Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel

the problem for both extreme right and left is: no awe.

After all, radical amazement lies in all reality:

not only in amazing things I can see – like the Milky Way –

that filmy white night banner overhead – but also in the fact that:

– I can see

– I can reflect on my ability to see

– I have a self that can reflect on things

– that this self is part and parcel of all that was/is/will be.

 

All these were great revelations to Heschel

and revelations always light up our footsteps on the path to God.

WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Few of us can run off

to the wilderness or hermitage

so the older religions

to break us out of 

our normal, comfortable, sleepwalking trance

help us get into liminal space

through pilgrimages, fasting, silent retreats

Lent or Ramadan.

You are baptized with the Holy Spirit

not by believing in the Holy Spirit

as a doctrine, but by drawing upon

the Divine Indwelling already within you.

According to Thomas Merton

the Holy Spirit is the Soul of the Church

so when the Holy Spirit prays within you

whether in public or private 

it is the Soul of the Church 

praying within you.

Bad things happen to good people

but the Holy Spirit is always present

prompting you from within 

to take care of your self

and comforting you from within 

when your health, work, or marriage  fails.

Quantum theology befriends and redeems

the pain, the dark, the chaos

by helping people see the interdependence of

darkness and light

pain and pleasure

sickness and health

death and rebirth.

The Holy Spirit shows us

there is a virtue to be practiced for every sin: 

pride/humility, anger/patience

avarice/compassion, lust/chastity

gluttony/sobriety

all the Enneagram

vices and virtues.

If you are engaging with those

who have not suffered

“rings of fire”

your attempts to explain

the reasonableness of faith

or prove God’s existence

will fail.

Systematic atheism insists

humans must be free

of any kind of God

as their author and goal

in order to be responsible 

for their own life.

Since YOU are your own author, goal and end

you cannot foist off onto God

responsibility for your own life.

Atheism relies upon science

but science believes only 

what can be physically located is real: 

cells, brains, stars.

So science scrubs the universe clean of

values, meaning, consciousness, ethics and depth 

since these things cannot be located in the cosmos

they are unreal fantasies/illusions.

What Alfred North Whitehead called

“the fallacy of simple location”

leaves us with a culture of superficiality.

We are like seed 

that falls upon gravel

and withers because it has no roots.

Merton studied the “archaic wisdom”

of Mayans, Zapotecs, Toltecs

to learn how to counter the efficiency, ambition

and triviality of technocratic society.

Science saps us of passion 

but Eros is the Holy Spirit in action – and passion 

deserves a home among spiritual people 

– passion for pleasure and sharing it

– compassion: awareness of suffering 

– passion for restorative justice

– all these are works of the Holy Spirit.

LOVE YOUR TRUE SELF

RECONCILING ANCIENT RELIGION AND MODERN SELF-HELP 

    All world religions would agree with St. Catherine of Sienna who said “Every evil is founded in self-love.” So how do we put ancient religion together with the modern self-help doctrine that you cannot love others if you don’t love yourself?

    When we are born, we are unitive thinkers: we sense our oneness with everything. However, as we develop we learn the word “no” from our parents trying to curtail our behaviour. We start to separate from our parents and others and develop our own identity. We learn we are a boy or girl and a human being not a dog or cat. Later we learn our race, nationality and everything else that separates us from others.

    Developing a sense of identity or ego is natural, healthy, and necessary to function in the world. However, if you think your ego, what separates you from everything, is all you are, it creates individualism, the source of all our problems. The illusion of separation transforms your ego into your false self, and life becomes every one for himself/herself.  

    Separation from others causes all social problems, and separation from nature is the root of all environmental problems. If you are really separate from others and the planet, what happens to them is not your concern. You can misuse them without any consequences. However, what happens to others and nature does impact us.

    I was pondering why, in indigenous paintings, there are fish, bears, and birds inside peoples’ bodies? Suddenly I got it: indigenous people are unitive thinkers – fish, bears, and birds are part of who they are. They and the environment are one.

    This is the solution to our environmental problems: the earth is us and we are the earth. Until we get that, we will continue to abuse the earth we depend on.

    Jesus was also a unitive thinker. He said “God and I are one,” and what we do to the least among us – people who are starving, naked, or homeless – we do to him.

    He also said the second greatest commandment, after loving God, is to love others as yourself. Perhaps he didn’t mean, as contemporary self-help would have it. “love others by first loving yourself,” but rather “love others because they are yourself.”

    God is everywhere and that includes inside you, in your depths. As Thomas Merton, a Catholic monk, frequently said “When you meet your deepest self you meet God.” 

    God is not only love, God is peace, goodness, wisdom, forgiveness, patience, and kindness, and so are you. Your true essence, your true self, is all these things. In this sense you and God are one. This is what being the “imago dei,” the image of God, means. You are not God, God is greater than you, but you and God are one in spirit. 

    That is why it is good to love your true self, your soul, the self that is love, peace, and goodness. When you love your true self, you are loving God within you, and since God is in everything, you are loving everything through God. When you love all the virtues of your true self, you are doing exactly what others and the earth need: people who love peace, goodness, and love.

    It is necessary to develop an ego, but it is also necessary to transcend the ego and realize that you have a larger, truer self. It is not healthy or wise to just love your ego, your false, illusory self. Loving just your ego is the root of all evil as St. Catherine said. She was thinking of love of the false self; contemporary self-help is presumably thinking of love of the true self, which is the foundation of all good.

    What we need now is a civilization built on love of the true self, the soul, our best self, our “better angels,” not one based on love of ego, our “worst demons.” This would solve many of our problems.

    As another holy woman, Mechthild of Magdeburg said:

“The soul is made of love and must ever strive to return to love. Therefore, it can never find rest or happiness in other things. It must lose itself in love. By its very nature it must seek God, who is love.”

Bruce Tallman is a London spiritual director, marriage coach, and religious educator of adults. www.brucetallman.com. For his weekly reflections on spirituality, see “The Big Picture” at https://brucetallmanblog.wordpress.com